I would like people to tell me under what circumstances, if ever, it can make sense to bypass a 3rd-party recruiter who has rejected you for a position and try to contact the hiring managers directly. It would be particularly relevant to hear from someone who saw this happen when they were the hiring manager, or from someone who did that as the applicant.

Below I describe a case that happened to me, just as a concrete example from which to start a risk-benefit analysis.

I found an ad for my dream job (at least seemingly) and applied for it. The company's website says they recruit only via a recruiting agency, so I applied with the assigned recruiter. She rejected me because I have never worked before with the software XYZ, which the company makes. She added the company has already hired 2 people with no XYZ skills in that same team and now wants to balance it. After doing my own research, I am prepared to make my case for why I could fit anyway, so here I am not interested in how you can overcome missing a skill in your CV.

I am also interested in when / how to bypass the 3rd-party recruiter right from the start, but not here: Those are other questions.

Update: I did not to try to go around the recruiter and a few months later she contacted me about a 2nd role that is a prerequisite for my "dream job". Now I am working at the company in this 2nd role.

PS: I added this update believing it is useful info. If it is not, please explain why in a comment. Of course, this outcome is just 1 data point: it would be interesting to hear from others who did or did not try to bypass the recruiter.

  • 14
    Which part of "they recruit only via a recruiting agency" don't you understand? Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 16:06
  • Do they recruit through other agencies?
    – user8365
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 16:27
  • 5
    @VietnhiPhuvan Companies will also often say things like they require X years of experience or a specific degree too, yet they are willing to bypass those on occasion if an appropriate candidate appears that they really like. I'd say it can't hurt to try, however if a person from the company also specifically rejects you based on the same rule, or simply redirects you to the recruiter, then it might be time to try your luck elsewhere and not harass them.
    – Rachel
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 16:46
  • Thanks to those who pointed out the defects in my question. I have tried to improve it by making it: a why/how to decide question applying Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 11:22

4 Answers 4


It is unlikely that going around the recruiter is going to work out well for you. I wouldn't suggest it.

First off, there are reasons that companies use recruiters as the front-end of the hiring process. One of those reasons is that it allows the hiring manager to avoid getting buried by resumes that haven't gone through a reasonable level of vetting. If you go around the recruiter, you'll probably only end up annoying the hiring manager.

Second, the explanation the recruiter gave you seems quite reasonable. Hiring managers are often in the position of needing to balance out the skill sets on the team. Whether you could do the job well in general may well be less important than whether your particular skill set happens to mesh well with the skill sets of the other folks on the team. If this is the case and you go around the recruiter, you'd just annoy the hiring manager who has already told the recruiter that he needs someone with expertise in XYZ to balance out some other new hires that lack that skill.

If this is a dream job for you, it makes sense to take the long view. It sounds like this team hired two people recently and is now hiring a third. That implies that it is rather likely that the team will be hiring again in the future. When a new position does show up again in the future, it's very likely that the hiring manager and the recruiter will be the same. If the primary objection is how your skills would mesh into the team, time will likely fix some of those issues as well. If the team is hiring again in a year, the two XYZ newbies will likely be up to speed so the team may be in a position to put less emphasis on XYZ experience and more emphasis on the things you can offer. And if you know that your dream job wants XYZ experience, you may be able to find ways to gain that experience in the interim. If you annoy the recruiter and the hiring manager today, you won't be doing anything to overcome their objections to bringing you on today. You will, however, make it very likely that they'll look less favorably on you in the future when you want to apply for the next open position.

  • 2
    If it's your dream job, take a long view and spend 6 months learning XYZ software.
    – KatieK
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 19:20
  • Thanks @KatieK, in fact there are online courses - albeit expensive - to learn software XYZ, and I told the recruiter that if she expected the job search to take a while, then I was willing to take the course on my expense. She said it would not help, but I am still considering this option in case I want to apply again to this company. That is doubtful because my dream job is that kind of position, not just any job at this company. That said, I have in the meanwhile improved my question, among other things clarifying that it is not about how to overcome a missing skill. Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 13:43

I'm going to go against the current upvoted answer and say it can't hurt to at least try. If its something you think is a dream job, at least give it a chance.

Companies will also often say things like they require X years of experience or a specific degree too, yet many are willing to bypass those requirements on occasion if an appropriate candidate appears that they really like.

The point is, you never know until you try. It depends on the company, their formal policies, their relationship with the recruiting agency, and many other factors that cannot possibly be known in advance by the regular everyday job seeker.

In your specific case too, it seems like you weren't rejected due to any failings in your qualifications, but rather because the recruiter is trying to balance out their job candidates. It sounds like if you had been faster to apply, you may have been one of the two already-selected candidates.

If its your dream job then I think you should at least try.

Just keep in mind that if a person from the company specifically rejects you under that rule, or just redirects you back to the recruiting company, then it's time to try your luck elsewhere. You don't want to be harassing them and possibly killing any future opportunities with the company.

  • 5
    I would say this CAN hurt you. I deal with hiring software developers from time to time, and we do go through recruiters. (and are public about it) If someone is recommended by my current staff that's about the only way to bypass the recruiter, if someone tries to bypass the recruiter it's an instant red flag. Why did they not go through the recruiter? My recruiter is my buffer to vet unqualified people, if they turned this person down, it means they saw a red flag. That pretty much puts you on my "never hire" list. Waiting until the next time I hire and trying again, that has a chance. Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 18:14
  • 2
    I think there is a difference between accepting 3 years experience when they ask for 5 vs you must go through this recruiter. While skill requirements can be offset by other skills, the company has put a process in place for a reason. When I am hiring, if people try to skirt the process, they lose. If I can't trust you to follow these instructions because it doesn't suit your desires, how well can I trust you to follow instructions you don't care for when you work for me.
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 18:39
  • I will also point out that since you are known to the recruiter, the company wuill have to pay him if they hire you directly, so that will make it that much less likely they will consider you. This is not a case where you should go for it. If you had not worked with the recruiter already, then yes perhaps you could attempt to directly apply but only if you are strongly likely to be the best candidate not if you are not (which you are clearly not since you don't have the skill set). Hiring managers make exceptions to process for exceptional candidates not ordinary or unqualified ones.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 18:41
  • 2
    @RualStorge Personally I think that if a company considers it a red flag to contact them and ask about an open position, then I'd say it's a red flag against the company. That said, I would agree that if after being told (by a person, and not a line of text on the company website) that you only hire through a recruiter, and you still try to be sneaky about it with something like making friends with the other devs, I can see how it would be a problem. In the past when my company used recruiters to hire developers, we'd always much rather hire them directly than pay the recruiter's fee :)
    – Rachel
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 19:00
  • @Rachel understandable, I'm all for not wasting money. There are two catches though. The first is like many companies we have a contract with the recruiting agency where anyone who talks to them first is their hire, even if we were to hire them directly (lots of conditions, but it protects the agency) This would fall into an area where we're probably in the right, but it wouldn't be good for us politically. (we'd just pay the fee) The second is we require our recruiter to provide a technical test you have to pass. (Too many people apply who aren't capable) I could test them, if I had time. Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 19:39

I would say you should not for several reasons:

  • Not following procedures is a big red-flag. If you've been with a company for 10 years and demonstrated what a superstar you are, you may get away with ignoring procedure and process. An outsider ignoring the process does not make a great first impression.
  • The fact that you really believe you can do the job well doesn't matter for much, if they have a dedicated recruiter, I would wager that the recruiter is a much better judge of your suitability for the job than you are. The recruiter will likely know much more about the job and the hiring group than you can glean from the job listing.
  • By your own admission, this is "a small country of 8 million rule-loving inhabitants." Do you really believe that breaking the rules will make you look good to these people?
  • What are the chances that someone who's been with the same company for 10 years is really a superstar? Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 19:42
  • I won't disagree with the sentiment of the article, but I know more than a few personally, and they stay because they get treated well and believe in the company. And they sometimes get to bend the rules :)
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 19:49
  • My point being is that I would not assume if I saw 10 years at the same company that this was a superstar. Quite the opposite. Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 19:56
  • I wasn't suggesting that 10 years makes you a superstar. My point was about being able to have some leeway with the rules. If you have been around for 10 years and you are a superstar, then the company might let you bend the rules
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 20:48
  • @cdkMoose thanks for your answer. I've now improved the question, among other things removing the "Swiss angle" to make it more general. I'll of course judge myself the specifics of my case. So only the general question remains: When, if ever, should an applicant break that rule? Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 11:47

You should absolutely go for it.

Recruiters are like bird-dogs for companies, that run through the brush and dig up qualified candidates for their positions.

Going to a company directly is like a bird flying straight into your net. It's awesome!

I would say don't expect any surprising results. Recruiters tend to be informed on what their companies are looking for, and are usually saving you as much time as they save themselves by offering a quick rejection.

But, by all means, try.

  • If the company explicitly states they only want you to go through a recruiter, you may find an angry bear getting caught in your net.
    – user8365
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 16:20

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